Numbness in the hands? Here’s what could be causing it…

Rohit, a fresh graduate, was very happy that he landed a well paying job as a data entry operator. He was told by his employer that if he was diligent and sincere, he’d soon be heading his own department. Rohit, slogged for hours at his new job – sitting at his computer for 10 to 12 hours a day.

One morning he woke up with pain and numbness in his right hand. It went away in a few minutes but came back every morning. Soon this progressed to pain through the day, especially while he was working on his computer or holding his phone in his right hand.

Within a couple of months of the first episode of pain and numbness, Rohit could not work through the day oh his computer without feeling excruciating pain in his right hand and now even his right forearm. His doctor told him he had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, which affects the nerves passing through his wrist and hence the pain and numbness.

The reason behind the pain?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, usually starts with a sensation of pins and needles in the hand, then weakness in the thumb and first two fingers and soon holding anything in the hand or making a fist becomes painful and difficult. This syndrome is perhaps the classic instance of Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) and usually the result of in appropriate ergonomics at work. But before that let’s look at what happening here. The nerves that enervate the hand and fingers exit from the same side of the neck, go down the shoulder, arm and finally pass through the wrist.

The Carpal Tunnel is a narrow passage on the underside or palm side of the wrist. The nerves, ligaments and tendons pass through this passage. If the soft tissues in the Carpal Tunnel get enflamed from overuse, they can compress the nerves, leading to pain and tingling in the hand.

It is also a good idea to look at the neck and see if the exiting nerves are not getting pinched there because of inappropriate posture putting strain on the muscles in the neck.

How to heal?

First things first, make sure the workstation is ergonomically designed to minimise RSI.

•The computer screen should be at eye level.

•Wrist should be straight.

•Shoulders should not be shrugged up while sitting.

•And the chair should support the elbows.

To stretch and strengthen

•Stretch the neck: touch your chin to chest and then look straight up at the ceiling. Turn your head left and right. Do these stretches 10 times each.

•Use your right hand to gently pull your nose towards your right armpit while you hold something heavy in your left hand. Repeat on the other side. Hold this stretch for 15 seconds.

•Sit on a chair and lean back over the back of the chair. Do this stretch for three to five times for 15 seconds each.

•Strengthen your mid back: stand in a corner, elbows level with your shoulders, now push the elbows forcefully into the wall. Try and pinch your shoulder blades together. Hold for a count of 10. Do this three to four times.

It’s a good idea to see a good physiotherapist if you have pain and tingling in your hands. He/she might help you get better before the pain incapacitates you. But prevention is better than cure.

So, take care of the ergonomics of your workstation, take regular breaks from working at your desk. Also, stretch and strengthen the upper body.

(A strength and conditioning coach for the last 15 years, Kamal Singh, CSCS, specialises in post rehabilitation training and functional training)

From HT Brunch, November 18, 2018

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First Published: Nov 17, 2018 20:26 IST

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